Lorenzo Theater

16080 Hesparian Boulevard,
San Lorenzo, CA 94580

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Lorenzo, 1984

Viewing: Photo | Street View

On April 5, 1947, the United Artists built Lorenzo Theatre opened in San Lorenzo, California. Not only were the opening night attendees treated to showings of “Swell Guy” and “Dark Mirror” but they also were among the first the see Anthony Heinsbergen’s glorious fluorescent murals. These enormous jungle scenes are the first black light murals in Northern California history.

In addition to the works of Heinsbergen, who received his first major theater commission from Alexander Pantages in 1924 and decorated over 750 theaters nationwide, the theatre was designed by San Francisco architects Alexander A. Cantin, who was known for unique marquees and A. Mackenzie Cantin.

Throughout the years, many special events were held at this amazing treasure. Throughout it’s functioning years, the theater hosted Saturday morning “kiddie matinees”. Costume parties were held for the community on Halloween. Live armature performances regularly graced the theater’s stage. Additionally, the Lorenzo Theater was the first theater in northern California to house a live cast of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

The Lorenzo Theater fell victim to the same disease of it peers, the advent of the multiplex theater, and closed its doors in 1982. It has remained vacant since.

In early-1999, the Lorenzo Theater Foundation was formed. The California 501c non-profit organization is dedicated to the salvation and restoration of the Art Deco treasure.

Awards and Merits

ART DECO PRESERVATION AWARD from the ART DECO SOCIETY OF CALIFORNIA IN May, 1986 ten of these are given each year to buildings deemed worthy of preservation.

The Lorenzo Theater was designated a California Historic Resource early in 2001.

On September 12, 2002, the Lorenzo Theater was named a Historic Preservation (HP) District by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the first in Alameda County.

Contributed by Diane Rinella, Paul Salley

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

scottfavareille on June 7, 2007 at 3:21 pm

This is taken from today’s San Leandro Times:

“Last week the Lorenzo Theater Foundation signed an agreement with the current owner of the property to take possession of the neglected movie house in ‘as is’ condition. Under the agreement, the foundation has 14 months to raise $300,000 to purchase the theater. The foundation has been working toward acquiring the property for nine years and after the theater changes hands, the real work will begin. The cost of repairing and remodeling the theater will be in the millions of dollars, since the Lorenzo has no electricity or running water and extensive structural damage.”

“The fundraising plan is to aim for 300 donors at $1,000 each. Current owner Dr Dharam Salwan kicked off the campaign by pledging $5,000 himself. Anyone who gives $100 or more will have their name placed on a plaque in the theater lobby.
It will be well over a year before anyone gets inside, and restoring the theater to its former glory will take place over the next five years or so, according to Lorenzo Theater Foundation president Nancy Shelvy.”

The plan is for the theater to screen classic films & be a general community visual & performing arts center. Anyone interested in donating can visit www.savethelorenzo.org or send checks payable to the Lorenzo Theater Foundation at
PO Box 193
San Lorenzo CA 94580

Sounds like positive news indeed!

LorenzoTheatre on June 19, 2007 at 10:48 am

Thank you for posting that article from the San Leandro Times. Yes, we truly on our way! It is a very exciting time and the Save The Lorenzo Theatre Foundation is working hard to get the word out. Anyone who has any ideas for major fundraisers is asked to contact us via www.savethelorenzo.org

Diane Rinella
Vice President, LTF

JohnMessick on July 20, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Anything new going on with this movie theatre?

davidkaye on January 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Do people in the San Lorenzo/Hayward area not like the Lorenzo Theater? This restoration project has had no updates in almost 2 years. The 14-month deadline has passed. Does anybody know the status today?

scottfavareille on July 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm

That 1982 photo would be shortly before it closed.

Jack Tillmany operated this theater for many years through the 1960s & into the early 1970s. When American Graffiti played here (as a move-over from the Southland Cinemas), it played here successfully for a number of weeks. Clint Eastwood films also drew well.

He also instituted a policy “No one under 16 admitted without a parent” at all times. This was largely to cut down on such things asas seat slashing

KMchan on May 27, 2010 at 9:35 pm

The Alameda County Redevelopment Department is now the owner of this beautiful old theater. On May 18, 2010, the CAC (Community Advisory Committee) voted to spend up to one million dollars to restore the outside of the building. This money will be spent on things like the roof and to make the building secure. Some of the money is also earmarked to repair the marquee and to fix the tower. This is wonderful news and a step in the right direction to save this building from becoming more run down.

Kelly McHan
Lorenzo Theater Foundation

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 3, 2010 at 10:17 am

Funny thing seat slashing must be a California thing. Worked in five theatres 2 single screens, 1 twin,1 triple and one Quad,and that is a lot of seats .but you know in the seven or eight years i worked in a theatre I can’t remember anyone ever slashing a seat.Sad comment a theatre owner had policy no kids under 16 without parents,bet he lost a ton of money.I bet the real truth was he didn’t want a bunch of kids running crazy in this theatre!

TLSLOEWS on July 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Nice looking theatre.

JohnMessick on January 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Anything happening at the Lorenzo?

GaryParks on October 31, 2014 at 12:56 am

Having heard Jack Tillmany’s stories of the Lorenzo under his tenure from the source, it is clear that Jack actually made a lot more money than he supposedly lost by not admitting kids under 16 without a parent. At the time he took the operation of the place over from UATC, it was a haven for wild teens and younger kids. Adults, by and large, had ceased going there. It had become, essentially, a babysitting facility. The doors had been removed from the bathroom stalls to keep kids from smoking in them. Once Jack started his policy, he put the doors back on the stalls, gave the place a thorough cleaning, and, since he had good dealings with distributors, got films with huge appeal—revivals, and titles that were more recent, but were favorites with proven track records. He would advertise as having Exclusive Bay Area Showings, and, indeed—it being the era before video, he did a fantastic business. People literally came from all over the Bay Area to the Lorenzo, because they knew they would experience good presentation in a clean, comfortable, and well-behaved atmosphere. NOTE: The photo of the vertical sign tower and marquee I posted is scanned from a slide I took in Summer, 1984, when the theatre sat closed.

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